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Leviticus 25     Psalm 32     Ecclesiastes 8     2 Timothy 4

Leviticus 25

The Sabbath Year

Leviticus 25:1 The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

The Year of Jubilee

8 “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.

13 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. 14 And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. 15 You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. 16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. 17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.

18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.

Redemption of Property

23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land.

25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. 26 If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27 let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. 28 But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.

29 “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. 30 If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. 31 But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. 32 As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. 33 And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. 34 But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

Kindness for Poor Brothers

35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. 44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. 45 You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. 46 You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.

Redeeming a Poor Man

47 “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan, 48 then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49 or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself. 50 He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired worker. 51 If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price. 52 If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service. 53 He shall treat him as a worker hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. 54 And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. 55 For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Psalm 32

Blessed Are the Forgiven

Psalm 32 A Maskil Of David.

1  Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3  For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

5  I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

6  Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7  You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

8  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9  Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.

10  Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
11  Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Ecclesiastes 8

Keep the King’s Command

Ecclesiastes 8:1 Who is like the wise?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
and the hardness of his face is changed.

2 I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. 3 Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. 4 For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. 6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. 7 For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? 8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. 9 All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.

Those Who Fear God Will Do Well

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

Man Cannot Know God’s Ways

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

2 Timothy 4

Preach the Word

2 Timothy 4:1  I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Personal Instructions

9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

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God’s Holy Love

By Albert Mohler 9/1/2005

     The notion of retributive justice — which has been the hallmark of human law since premodern times — has been under assault for many years in Western cultures. Led by utilitarian philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, many modern persons have determined that retribution is an unacceptable form of justice. This shift has had repercussions not only in legal practice, judicial theory, and penal law, but also in theology. For as justice has been redefined to mean rehabilitation instead of retribution, the idea of a penal substitutionary atonement has become to many persons simply unthinkable.

     The most recent skirmish in this battle comes in the form of a new book by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann. Chalke is a well-known figure among British evangelicals, who has now produced a book that has ignited a firestorm in Great Britain that is almost certain to spread to the United States. In The Lost Message of Jesus, Chalke and Mann argue that evangelicals have misunderstood, misconstrued, and misrepresented the meaning of the cross and the doctrine of the atonement.

     Chalke points to God’s love as the primary concept that should properly frame our theology. Unfortunately, his understanding of God’s love sets him at odds with any biblical notion of God’s wrath and righteousness. Specifically, Chalke suggests that a focus on God’s wrath is profoundly unhelpful in this culture, and that notions of hell, punishment, and judgment are simply out of step. He cites Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” as a particularly unfortunate message. “Preaching like Edwards’ has been all too representative of the portrayal of the gospel by the Church over the last few hundred years, and by implication, of any popular understanding of the message of Jesus,” he argues (p. 56).

     Edwards, you will remember, described the predicament of the sinner as similar to a spider held over the fire. Just as that spider faces sure destruction if he is not rescued, a sinner faces sure and certain judgment and punishment if he is not redeemed. This kind of message is described by Chalke as “ferocious rhetoric” that is gladly “a thing of the past,” even though the “residue of such portrayals of the gospel” still does much damage around the world (p. 56).

     Chalke’s simplistic and unfair caricature of Jonathan Edwards serves as a signal of what is to come. Later in the book, Chalke and Mann critique what they call “the myth of redemptive violence” (p. 125). This notion is drawn from postmodern theologian Walter Wink, who calls for a radical reinterpretation of the cross and its meaning. Chalke has adopted a similar program, rejecting the doctrine of penal substitution and adopting what amounts to a moral influence theory of the atonement.

     According to Chalke and Mann, the cross simply serves as a profound demonstration of the love of God. On the cross, Christ “absorbed all the pain, all the suffering caused by the breakdown in our relationship with God and in doing so demonstrated the lengths to which a God who is love will go to restore it” (p. 181).

     The doctrine of penal substitution — the understanding that on the cross Christ died in our place, bearing the penalty for our sin — is described as “a form of cosmic child abuse.” In their words: “The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse — a vengeful Father punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed” (p. 182). They go further to suggest that “such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement ‘God is love.’ ” Moreover, they argue, it is based on a “twisted version of events” that is “morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith.”

     Lest their point be missed, the authors go further: “If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetuated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil” (p. 182–183). Look at that statement closely. This audacious claim, so in keeping with postmodern sensibilities, directly rejects clear biblical passages that speak of God’s wrath poured out upon sin, of the necessity of Christ’s atonement, and of Christ’s atonement as a propitiation that demonstrates God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

     As Chalke and Mann see it, “the cross is a symbol of love. It is a demonstration of just how far God as Father and Jesus as his Son are prepared to go to prove that love. The cross is a vivid statement of the powerlessness of love” (p. 183).

     There is little new here. After all, the moral influence theory of the atonement is hardly a recent development. Nevertheless, this understanding of the cross not only falls far short of the biblical testimony; it requires a direct and unqualified rejection of the apostolic preaching. The Bible is very clear about God’s holiness, and does not flinch from warning of His wrath poured out upon sin, and upon sinners. At the same time, God’s love is demonstrated in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In other words, the Bible presents God’s love as a holy love — a redeeming love that is demonstrated in the atoning sacrifice accomplished by Jesus Christ.

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Albert Mohler Books:

Changing the World

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 09/01/2005

     Pop culture is a sanitizing force. No, it doesn’t make the world a cleaner place. It just makes us all the more the same. We are a world awash in golden arches, swooshes, and the real thing. Because people in Maine watch the same television shows, listen to the same radio programs, and attend the same movies as folks in Oklahoma, we are losing not only our national distinctives, but our regional distinctives. Our language is becoming homogenized, and our accents are going the way of the dodo bird.

     Local cultures, however, fight back from time to time. My home is in Hiltons, Virginia, population 350. But Hiltons is also the proud home of the Carter Family Fold, or as we call it here, the Fold. Here the descendents of Maybelle and A.P. Carter, who with Bill Rogers were the progenitors of country music, still weekly play that old-time music to the delight of we locals. Pop stars not only don’t play in this town, they don’t know that it exists. And no one dancing their hearts out every Saturday night at the Fold feels any the poorer because they don’t know the difference between the Backstreet Boys and the Beastie Boys.

     Southern culture as a whole fits that same bill. The broader culture hates it, assuming that what defines the south is the evil of racism. But many sons of the south resent not only that implication, but the cultural imperialism of the red states. We may live in fly-over country, but we’re quite content if those who think so would just fly on over. As the bumper sticker sagely puts it: “We don’t care how you do it up north.”

     I am a transplant to the south, having been born and raised just north of the Mason-Dixon line. But whatever faults southern culture might be guilty of, one can’t escape its charms. A co-worker just yesterday, a recent arrival from places far west, noted the different ways one receives directions here. In the Midwest, where the land is flat, you will be told to follow this road this many miles, and then turn east. You’ll turn north again after the next light, and what you’re looking for will be on the south side of the road. For those of us who grew up amidst rivers and mountains, and twisting, turning roads, such is pure gobbledygook. Where I grew up you told people which roads one should turn left or right on, and that was it.

     In the south, however, the whole process is different. “You come up on the Kinderhook farm …” (and here we pay close attention, because we must turn soon) “…and you go right past that. Not long after you’ll pass Barnrock church. Just keep going. When you get to Nordyke road, you’ll see a log cabin up on the hill. That belongs to the Kisers. Keep going straight.” Directions, to the southerner, aren’t instructions in how to get from place to place, but a travelogue about the journey, and an introduction to all of the neighbors.

     My conviction is that this strange reality is an expression of a stranger, more hidden reality. People in the south don’t see places as means of travel, but as the setting of their lives. The farms and the rivers and all the other landmarks aren’t places to turn, but places to return to our past, our roots, our broader community. In the south it is easier to remember that what we are is bigger than ourselves.

     Which may help explain why it is that the south is known as America’s Bible belt. Some cultural patterns make the Gospel easier to grasp, others make it harder. A culture where fathers are largely absent and irresponsible, for instance, is one that will find it hard to understand the love of our heavenly Father. In turn, a culture given to extreme individualism is one in which one man living and dying for another just doesn’t make sense. A culture where one’s identity is more corporate than singular is one that can in turn identify with a substitutionary atonement.

     Such is not to argue for the superiority of southern culture to northern. Both have weaknesses and both have strengths. As I have often argued with many who love the south, the great thing about southern virtues isn’t that they are southern, but that they are virtues. The capacity to live in a more covenantal world is a good thing because this is the world God gave us, not because it’s a southern thing.

     That our culture tends to put up roadblocks to our faith doesn’t mean, however, that we devise detours. That some subcultures lack many loving fathers doesn’t mean we change the message that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. And that His life for ours is a puzzle to our insulated world doesn’t change the fact that He gave His life for ours. We do not contextualize our message, but contextualize the culture. That is, we are about the business of building a culture, a kingdom, where, though it is foolishness to the Greeks, and a stumbling block to the Jews, the death on the cross is for us the power of God unto salvation. We have a message that creates a new culture, and will change that message for no one.

     The cross of Christ is our landmark, our direction, and the very context of our lives. It is where we have come from, where we are heading, and what attends us along the way. Christ died for sinners, both southern ones that can grasp the notion, and northern ones that find such to be confusing. What never changes is our most sacred faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Relying on Christ

By Mark Dever 9/1/2005

     How can we confess our sins as John tells us to in I John 1:9? Let me make four suggestions: First, know God’s Word; second, know our lives; third, know our sins; fourth, confess our sins. When I am self-righteous in an argument with my wife, I need first to know God’s Word. Then, I must move on to number 2: I must know my life. I must have some way that I can stop and reflect and take account of what I am doing. I personally take time when I get up in the morning and when I go to bed at night to survey the day and what I hope to do, or have done, and lift it to the Lord in prayer.

     But this isn’t enough. It needs to move on to knowing my sin, the third movement. Whether this comes through other people that I’m in committed relationships with (like my wife, or my fellow church members) or through me just being honest with myself, somehow I need to be able to identify and articulate not excuses, and not explanations for why I reacted this way or that way, but to see it as God sees it — as sin. And then I can go to confess my sins, fundamentally to God, but in the example I used, to my wife, and to others who may have been involved. As we see our own sin, we come to love Christ more, because we understand more and more our need for Him.

     Many people look at the cross and don’t understand it, and they don’t understand the cross because they don’t understand their own sin. Sin darkens our minds and our hearts. I know in my own life that when I’ve sinned, it effects my judgment. And I’ve seen it in others’ lives as well. The effects in our lives are terrible.

     But sin’s effects are not limited to those things people experience now. John is clear that sin also darkens our future.

     Look at the first two verses in chapter 2: “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin.” [And some of you may feel you can stop reading here. If that’s you, let me encourage you to re-read the verses right before. The rest of us, however, need to keep reading!] “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

     Perhaps some of John’s early readers had misunderstood — or even denied — Jesus’ role. Perhaps some thought it was limited only to them. Throughout the New Testament period, the great question before the church was “are we just for the Jews, or are we for the whole world?” Whether John’s speaking of the “whole world” here was primarily over against this false Jewish exclusivism, or some other, it was clearly intended to tell them that Jesus Christ was no advocate of a small or private enclave, but rather that He is the one and the only such advocate that “we have,” as he put it in verse 1.

     As to the theological question about who Jesus was the propitiation for, I think we’ll get further in understanding that by considering the nature of a propitiation — it is by its very nature, effective. To propitiate is to turn away wrath. It is the action by which guilt is removed and our relationship to God is restored. This is what the atoning sacrifice accomplishes.

     So is Jesus Christ your advocate? Will He stand and defend you on the last day? He certainly can’t honestly claim that you have been without sin. How then would He defend you when God rightly begins to lay out the sentence you’ve deserved? Only by telling His Father that it has been met already and paid in full. That’s what Christ did as a propitiation for all who will confess their sins, repent of them, and turn to Him. Without that turning to Christ, and trusting in Him, you and I have only God’s wrath to expect.

     But Jesus has come particularly to save sinners! So in 1:7 John wrote that “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” And in verse 9, we read that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Later on in 2:12, John says that “your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.”

(1 Jn 1:7–2:12) 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

          12  I am writing to you, little children,
          because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
     This is what it means to have Jesus Christ as your advocate and atoning sacrifice. Our sins are forgiven because of Him. This Gospel is where we live as Christians! Because being a Christian doesn’t mean being perfect; rather, it’s being forgiven. A Christian church is a community of people who realize their pitiful future was one they deserved, while they share in a future of grace.

     That gracious future doesn’t come because of our righteousness, but because of Christ’s! Self-righteousness is like the penny over the eye that blocks out the sun. Because of our conceits of our own puny righteousness, we do not see the righteousness of Christ provided for us by faith. Christ’s righteousness is our glory! He is our hope!

     Our sins provoke God’s wrath. To answer that wrath, should we rely upon ourselves, or upon Christ? We should rely upon Christ.

     Do you think you’ve found another way to have your sins forgiven? I promise you, on the last day you will need help. And Christ is that help.

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Dr. Mark Dever is senior minister of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and is an author and speaker for 9Marks, a ministry concerned with biblical church reform.

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Cur Deus Homo

By R.C. Sproul 09/01/2005

     In the eleventh century, one of the church’s most brilliant thinkers, Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, wrote three important works that have influenced the church ever since. In the field of Christian philosophy, he gave us his Monologium and his The Major Works of St. Anselm: Proslogium; Monologium; An Appendix in Behalf of the Fool by Guanilon; Cur Deus Homo; in the field of systematic theology, he penned the great Christian classic Cur Deus Homo, which being translated means Why God Became Man

     In this work, Anselm set forth the philosophical and theological foundations for an important aspect of the church’s understanding of the atonement of Christ, specifically the satisfaction view of the atonement. In it, Anselm argued that it was necessary for the atonement to take place in order to satisfy the justice of God. That viewpoint became the centerpiece of classical Christian orthodoxy in the Middle Ages, in terms of the church’s understanding of the work of Christ in His atonement. Since then, however, the satisfaction view of the atonement has not been without its critics.

     In the Middle Ages, questions were raised about the propriety of thinking that the atonement of Jesus was made necessary by some abstract law of the universe that required God’s justice to be satisfied. This gave rise to the so-called Ex Lex debate. In the Ex Lex debate, the question was raised as to whether God’s will functioned apart from any law or outside of any law (ex lex), or whether the will of God was itself subjected to some norm of righteousness or cosmic law that God was required to follow and, therefore, His will was exercised under law (sub lego). The question was: Is God apart from law or is He under law?

     The church’s response to this dilemma was to say basically “a pox on both houses,” and to declare that God is neither apart from law nor under law in these respective senses. Rather, the church responded by affirming that God is both apart from law and under law, in so far as He is free from any restraints imposed upon Him by some law that exists outside of Himself. In that sense, He is apart from law and not under law. Yet at the same time, God is not arbitrary or capricious and works according to the law of His own nature. The church declared that God is a law unto Himself. This reflects not a spirit of lawlessness within God, but that the norm for God’s behavior and God’s will is based on what the seventeenth-century orthodox theologians called “the natural law of God.”

     The natural law of God, as a theological expression, can be easily misunderstood or confused with the broader concept that we encounter in political theory and in theology of the so-called “law of nature” (lex naturalis). In that sense of the phrase, the law of nature refers to those things that God reveals in the world of nature about certain principles of ethics. In distinction from this common use of the term natural law, what the seventeenth-century Westminster divines had in view when they spoke of the natural law of God was this: that God operates according to the law of His own nature. That is to say, God never acts in such a way that would contradict His own holiness, His own righteousness, His own justice, His own omnipotence, and so on. God never compromises the perfection of His own being or character in what He does.

     When the church confesses the necessity of the satisfaction of God’s righteousness, this necessity is not something that is imposed upon God from the outside, but it is a necessity imposed upon God by His own character and nature. It is necessary for God to be God, never to compromise His own holiness, righteousness, or justice. It is in this sense that an atonement that satisfied His righteousness is deemed necessary.

     In more recent times, modern thinkers have objected to the satisfaction view of the atonement on the grounds that it casts a shadow over the free grace and love of God. If God is a God of love, why can He not just forgive people gratuitously from the pure motivation of His own love and grace, without being concerned about satisfying some kind of justice, whether it’s a law of His own nature or a law imposed from without? Again, this view of the atonement fails to understand that God will never negotiate His own righteousness, even out of His desire to save sinners.

     In the atonement, we see that God both manifests His gracious love towards us and yet at the same time, manifests a commitment to His own righteousness and justice. Justice is served by the work of Christ who satisfies the demands of God’s righteousness, thereby maintaining God’s commitment to righteousness and justice. God satisfied the demands of His righteousness by giving to us a Substitute who stands in our place, offering that satisfaction for us. This displays marvelously the graciousness of God in the midst of that satisfaction. God’s grace is illustrated by the satisfaction of His justice in that it is done for us by the One whom He has appointed. It is God’s nature as the Judge of all the world to do what is right. And the Judge who does what is right never, ever violates the canons of His own righteousness.

     The Bible explains the cross in terms of both propitiation and expiation, the twin accomplishments of Christ in our behalf. Propitiation refers specifically to Christ’s work of satisfaction of God’s righteousness. He pays the penalty for us that is due our sins. We are debtors who cannot possibly pay the moral debt that we have incurred by our offense against the righteousness of God, and God’s wrath is satisfied and propitiated by the perfect sacrifice that Christ makes on our behalf. But that’s only one aspect of the work. The second is expiation. In expiation, our sins are removed from us, remitted by having our sins transferred or imputed to Christ, who vicariously suffers in our stead. God is satisfied, and our sin is removed for us in the perfect atonement of Jesus. This fulfills the dual sense in which sin was atoned for on the old-covenant Day of Atonement, both by the sacrifice of one animal and the symbolic transfer of the sins of the people to the back of the scapegoat, who was then sent into the wilderness, removing the sins from the people.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

Angels of Darkness

By Kent Heimbigner 10/1/2005

     Christ warned His disciples, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 15–16a). Like every word uttered by the mouth of the Lord, He speaks these words purposefully: He would not have warned us against “wolves in sheep’s clothing” if they posed no danger. Quite to the contrary, cults would draw those who hear them away from the one true, saving faith in Christ.

     To understand the danger cults present, consider Martin Luther’s explanation to the petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation.” He writes, “God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory” (Luther's Small Catechism, with Explanation).

     Were you to ask most people, even Christians, for examples of “really big sins,” they generally would respond with things like murder, sexual sins, or perhaps even sins against the property of another. So why does Luther single out “false belief” and “despair”? Luther does not think in terms of what violates God’s law here. He speaks rather to those things that would overthrow the Gospel! No matter what you have done in terms of sin, as long as you still know the blessed and holy Triune God, and as long as you still trust in the death of Christ on the cross to have paid for all your sins, there is still a way back. You cannot sin a sin bigger than the sacrifice of Christ. Repent and receive His forgiveness.

     However, if you have the wrong God (false belief), or you no longer believe the atoning sacrifice of Christ counts for you (despair), then you have cut yourself off from the source of forgiveness. So we pray most fervently against these salvation-destroying things, and then secondarily against “other great shame and vice.”

     This is where cults come in. They are nothing but mighty tools in the hands of the evil one to lure you into false belief, that is, to lure you into trusting a false god for your salvation. Know this, that the appeal of these organizations goes well beyond issues of a “sense of belonging,” opportunities for social interaction, or psychological attraction. There is demonic power behind all falsehood, and the father of lies wants nothing more than to unleash faith-destroying falsehood on all who would follow Christ.

     Immediately after warning against false prophets, Christ tells us that we may recognize them by their fruits. What does He mean? It must mean more than who does outwardly good things: most religions encourage such civic righteousness, and they cannot all be true. No, when Christ points us to the fruits, He means most particularly their doctrines. Do they come to you in the Name of the only true and living God — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do they teach that Jesus Christ is true God, that He is true man, that He was born of the Virgin, crucified, rose, and ascended into heaven? Do they point you to the work of Christ for your salvation, or do they point you away from Him, inviting you to trust in your own good works (a false god if ever there was one!)? These are the fruits we seek. When the focus is turned instead to the works of man, to a charismatic leader, or to some new revelation, then God is being robbed of His glory, and we turn away.

     How do you guard yourself against false doctrine? Many have become experts about the particular beliefs and practices of certain cults, and they render a great service to our Lord and His church. Nevertheless, the single best way to protect yourself against false doctrine is to know the truth of God’s Word thoroughly. When we have a firm grasp of the truth, we will easily recognize falsehood when it comes our way.

     Finally, how can we reach out in Christian love to our neighbor who has been led astray into one of these cults? It is not enough to show them that what they believe is false: they will likely see this as a personal assault on them. At best, they will receive the critique, realize that their cult is a deception, and as a result have no idea what, if anything, to believe. Further, even an approach that says, “I know it sounds good, but it’s not true,” already concedes too much.

     The holy Christian faith offers one thing that no other religion can: certainty of salvation! Any cult or religion that looks to the works of man for salvation can never give the guilty conscience peace. As we doubt ourselves, so we must inevitably doubt the acceptability of our works in the eyes of God, and so salvation must remain an uncertain thing. One can be certain of salvation only when that salvation is the work of Christ alone, for only Christ is reliable beyond all doubt. This is the precious gift we can offer those whom the cults have deceived.

     God grant us complete confidence in the all-sufficient work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and so protect us against all that would lure us away from it. So then shall He also have use of us to speak to those who sit in darkness about the good news of salvation solely by grace, solely through faith, solely on account of the atoning work of Christ. Amen.

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     Kent Heimbigner

Leviticus 25; Psalm 32; Eccl. 8; 2 Timothy 4

By Don Carson 4/21/2018

     “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Ps. 32:1-2). In a theistic universe where God keeps the books, it is difficult to imagine any greater blessedness.

     The sad tragedy is that when many people reflect on this brute fact — that we must give an account to him, and there is no escaping his justice — almost instinctively they do the wrong thing. They resolve to take the path of self-improvement, they turn over a new leaf, they conceal or even deny the sins of frivolous youth. Thus they add to their guilt something additional — the sin of deceit.

     We dare not ask for justice — we would be crushed. But how can we hide from the God who sees everything? That is self-delusion. There is only one way forward that does not destroy us: we must be forgiven. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven.” And what is bound up with such forgiveness? For a start, such a person will not pretend there are no sins to forgive: blessed is the man “in whose spirit is no deceit.”

     That is why the ensuing verses speak so candidly of confession (32:3-5). It was when David “kept silent” (i.e., about his sins) that his “bones wasted away”; his anguish was so overwhelming it brought wretched physical pain. David writhed under the sense that God himself was against him: “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (32:4).

     The glorious solution? “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ — and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (32:5).

     The New Testament writer closest to saying the same thing is John in his first letter (1 John 1:8-9). Writing to believers, John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There it is again: the self-deception bound up with denying our sinfulness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There it is again: the only remedy to human guilt. This God forgives us, not because he is indulgent or too lazy to be careful, but because we have confessed our sin, and above all, because he is “faithful and just”: “faithful” to the covenant he has established, “just” so as not to condemn us when Jesus himself is the propitiation for our sins (2:2).

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 40

My Help and My Deliverer
40 To The Choirmaster - A Psalm of David.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     10. Sometimes, however, the saints in supplicating God, seem to appeal to their own righteousness, as when David says, "Preserve my soul; for I am holy," (Ps. 86:2). Also Hezekiah, "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight," (Is. 38:2). All they mean by such expressions is, that regeneration declares them to be among the servants and children to whom God engages that he will show favour. We have already seen how he declares by the Psalmist that his eyes "are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry," (Ps. 34:16) and again by the apostle, that "whatsoever we ask of him we obtain, because we keep his commandments," (John 3:22). In these passages he does not fix a value on prayer as a meritorious work, but designs to establish the confidence of those who are conscious of an unfeigned integrity and innocence, such as all believers should possess. For the saying of the blind man who had received his sight is in perfect accordance with divine truth, And God heareth not sinners (John 9:31); provided we take the term sinners in the sense commonly used by Scripture to mean those who, without any desire for righteousness, are sleeping secure in their sins; since no heart will ever rise to genuine prayer that does not at the same time long for holiness. Those supplications in which the saints allude to their purity and integrity correspond to such promises, that they may thus have, in their own experience, a manifestation of that which all the servants of God are made to expect. Thus they almost always use this mode of prayer when before God they compare themselves with their enemies, from whose injustice they long to be delivered by his hand. When making such comparisons, there is no wonder that they bring forward their integrity and simplicity of heart, that thus, by the justice of their cause, the Lord may be the more disposed to give them succour. We rob not the pious breast of the privilege of enjoying a consciousness of purity before the Lord, and thus feeling assured of the promises with which he comforts and supports his true worshippers, but we would have them to lay aside all thought of their own merits and found their confidence of success in prayer solely on the divine mercy.

11. The fourth rule of prayer is, that notwithstanding of our being thus abased and truly humbled, we should be animated to pray with the sure hope of succeeding. There is, indeed, an appearance of contradiction between the two things, between a sense of the just vengeance of God and firm confidence in his favour, and yet they are perfectly accordant, if it is the mere goodness of God that raises up those who are overwhelmed by their own sins. For, as we have formerly shown (chap. 3, sec. 1, 2) that repentance and faith go hand in hand, being united by an indissoluble tie, the one causing terror, the other joy, so in prayer they must both be present. This concurrence David expresses in a few words: "But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy, and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple," (Ps. 5:7). Under the goodness of God he comprehends faith, at the same time not excluding fear; for not only does his majesty compel our reverence, but our own unworthiness also divests us of all pride and confidence, and keeps us in fear. The confidence of which I speak is not one which frees the mind from all anxiety, and soothes it with sweet and perfect rest; such rest is peculiar to those who, while all their affairs are flowing to a wish are annoyed by no care, stung with no regret, agitated by no fear. But the best stimulus which the saints have to prayer is when, in consequence of their own necessities, they feel the greatest disquietude, and are all but driven to despair, until faith seasonably comes to their aid; because in such straits the goodness of God so shines upon them, that while they groan, burdened by the weight of present calamities, and tormented with the fear of greater, they yet trust to this goodness, and in this way both lighten the difficulty of endurance, and take comfort in the hope of final deliverance. It is necessary therefore, that the prayer of the believer should be the result of both feelings, and exhibit the influence of both; namely, that while he groans under present and anxiously dreads new evils, he should, at the same times have recourse to God, not at all doubting that God is ready to stretch out a helping hand to him. For it is not easy to say how much God is irritated by our distrust, when we ask what we expect not of his goodness. Hence, nothing is more accordant to the nature of prayer than to lay it down as a fixed rule, that it is not to come forth at random, but is to follow in the footsteps of faith. To this principle Christ directs all of us in these words, "Therefore, I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them," (Mark 11:24). The same thing he declares in another passage, "All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive," (Mt. 21:22). In accordance with this are the words of James, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering," (James 1:5). He most aptly expresses the power of faith by opposing it to wavering. No less worthy of notice is his additional statement, that those who approach God with a doubting, hesitating mind, without feeling assured whether they are to be heard or not, gain nothing by their prayers. Such persons he compares to a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. Hence, in another passage he terms genuine prayer "the prayer of faith," (James 5:15). Again, since God so often declares that he will give to every man according to his faith he intimates that we cannot obtain any thing without faith. In short, it is faith which obtains every thing that is granted to prayer. This is the meaning of Paul in the well known passage to which dull men give too little heed, "How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," (Rom. 10:14, 17). Gradually deducing the origin of prayer from faith, he distinctly maintains that God cannot be invoked sincerely except by those to whom, by the preaching of the Gospel, his mercy and willingness have been made known, nay, familiarly explained.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4
  • 2 Timothy 2
  • 1 Timothy 3:1-7

#1 The End: God's Timing 2 | Brett Meador


#2 Fathers' Day 2012 | Brett Meador


#3 Elders In The Church | Brett Meador


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     7/1/2004    Footprints in the Sand

     The Holy Spirit leaves no footprints in the sand. He is not a physical being. He has no body or form, no hands or feet. He is invisible — He cannot be seen, and He cannot be heard. He is a spirit, and we have fashioned Him in our likeness — in the likeness of man.

     We make the Holy Spirit whatever we want Him to be. Depending upon our mood, we make Him out to be our great genie up in the sky, or we make Him our buddy who can get us anything we want. Perhaps that’s why the Holy Spirit is so popular these days. At any time of day or night I can turn on my television and watch self-proclaimed faith-healers call down the Holy Spirit to heal people and make them rich. “Health and wealth,” they proclaim; just imagine, and the Holy Spirit will grant you whatever your heart fancies. If you want a bigger car or a larger house, don’t be bashful — demand it, they say. Unfortunately, those who demand such things of the Holy Spirit are more likely to receive greater judgment rather than a bigger car.

     The Holy Spirit’s popularity is not a new thing, however. Throughout history, His popularity has risen and fallen with every historic turn of events. We remind ourselves of His power when we want something, we seek Him when we’re desperate, and we forget about Him whenever things are going our way.

     Just as we have fashioned Him according to our likeness, we have also blasphemed Him. We have disguised ourselves by associating ourselves with a divine being who cannot be seen, heard, or held. Yes, He is a spirit, but He is not merely a spirit. He is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, and there is a reason He is called holy. He is not a creature, and He cannot be fashioned according to our likeness. Rather, He lives within us and fashions us according to His likeness in order that we might be holy as He is holy. And He does this so that we might live coram Deo, before His face in worship and adoration.

     The Holy Spirit has never been so popular, yet He has never been more misunderstood. The doctrine of the person and work of the Holy Spirit is not some distant teaching that we can relegate to the pages of dusty systematic theology books. The Holy Spirit is not some ghostly being who floats around looking for someone to fill. And although He is a spirit, He is not silent, and He is not deaf. He hears our every word and has spoken the eternal Word of God in the pages of sacred Scripture. He is our great Comforter in whom we have been sealed until the Day of Redemption.

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     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Mark Twain, a river measurement meaning "twelve feet deep," was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who died this day, April 21, in 1910. Growing up along the Mississippi, he left school at age twelve when his father died and became a printer's apprentice. He piloted steamboats, but the War between the States suspended all river traffic. Famous for such works as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, and he even talked Ulysses S. Grant into writing his Civil War memoirs. In his classic style, Mark Twain remarked: "If the Ten Commandments were not written by Moses, then they were written by another fellow of the same name."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

To all who find their days declining, to all upon whom age is creeping with its infirmities, to all whose strength seems steadily to ebb....God seems to take our last things, and as it were, pack them up for our journey. These are tokens that you are approaching land. They are signs that the troubles of the sea are almost over.
--- Henry Ward Beecher
Life and Work of Henry Ward Beecher: An Authentic, Impartial and Complete History of His Public Career and Private Life from the Cradle to the Grave ... Descriptive of the Man and His Times ...

If the Lord fails me at this time, it will be the first time.
--- George Mueller
George Müller (Muller, Mueller) of Bristol

I do not pray for a lighter load, but for a stronger back.
--- Phillips Brooks
Phillips Brooks year book : selections from the writings of Phillips Brooks

As soon as questions of will or decision or reason or choice of action arise, human science is at a loss.
--- Noam Chomsky
The Restitution of Man: C. S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism

... from here, there and everywhere

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Forty-Third Chapter / Beware Vain And Worldly Knowledge


     MY CHILD, do not let the fine-sounding and subtle words of men deceive you. For the kingdom of heaven consists not in talk but in virtue. Attend, rather, to My words which enkindle the heart and enlighten the mind, which excite contrition and abound in manifold consolations. Never read them for the purpose of appearing more learned or more wise. Apply yourself to mortifying your vices, for this will benefit you more than your understanding of many difficult questions.

     Though you shall have read and learned many things, it will always be necessary for you to return to this one principle: I am He who teaches man knowledge, and to the little ones I give a clearer understanding than can be taught by man. He to whom I speak will soon be wise and his soul will profit. But woe to those who inquire of men about many curious things, and care very little about the way they serve Me.

     The time will come when Christ, the Teacher of teachers, the Lord of angels, will appear to hear the lessons of all—that is, to examine the conscience of everyone. Then He will search Jerusalem with lamps and the hidden things of darkness will be brought to light and the arguings of men’s tongues be silenced.

     I am He Who in one moment so enlightens the humble mind that it comprehends more of eternal truth than could be learned by ten years in the schools. I teach without noise of words or clash of opinions, without ambition for honor or confusion of argument.

     I am He Who teaches man to despise earthly possessions and to loathe present things, to ask after the eternal, to hunger for heaven, to fly honors and to bear with scandals, to place all hope in Me, to desire nothing apart from Me, and to love Me ardently above all things. For a certain man by loving Me intimately learned divine truths and spoke wonders. He profited more by leaving all things than by studying subtle questions.

     To some I speak of common things, to others of special matters. To some I appear with sweetness in signs and figures, and to others I appear in great light and reveal mysteries. The voice of books is but a single voice, yet it does not teach all men alike, because I within them am the Teacher and the Truth, the Examiner of hearts, the Understander of thoughts, the Promoter of acts, distributing to each as I see fit.

The Imitation Of Christ

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     The Almost-Delivered Manv      The man has tried to obey the beautiful law of God. He has loved it, he has wept over his sin, he has tried to conquer, he has tried to overcome fault after fault, but every time he has ended in failure.

     What did he mean by "the body of this death"? Did he mean, my body when I die? Surely not. In the eighth chapter you have the answer to this question in the words: "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." That is the body of death from which he is seeking deliverance.

     And now he is on the brink of deliverance! In the twenty-third verse of the seventh chapter we have the words: "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." It is a captive that cries: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" He is a man who feels himself bound. But look to the contrast in the second verse of the eighth chapter: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." That is the deliverance through Jesus Christ our Lord; the liberty to the captive which the Spirit brings. Can you keep captive any longer a man made free by the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus"?

     But you say, the regenerate man, had not he the Spirit of Jesus when he spoke in the sixth chapter? Yes, but he did not know what the Holy Spirit could do for him.

     God does not work by His Spirit as He works by a blind force in nature. He leads His people on as reasonable, intelligent beings, and therefore when He wants to give us that Holy Spirit whom He has promised, He brings us first to the end of self, to the conviction that though we have been striving to obey the law, we have failed. When we have come to the end of that, then He shows us that in the Holy Spirit we have the power of obedience, the power of victory, and the power of real holiness.

     God works to will, and He is ready to work to do, but, alas! Many Christians misunderstand this. They think because they have the will, it is enough, and that now they are able to do. This is not so. The new will is a permanent gift, an attribute of the new nature. The power to do is not a permanent gift, but must be each moment received from the Holy Spirit. It is the man who is conscious of his own impotence as a believer who will learn that by the Holy Spirit he can live a holy life. This man is on the brink of that great deliverance; the way has been prepared for the glorious eighth chapter. I now ask this solemn question: Where are you living? Is it with you, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?" with now and then a little experience of the power of the Holy Spirit? or is it, "I thank God through Jesus Christ! The law of the Spirit hath set me free from the law of sin and of death"?

     What the Holy Spirit does is to give the victory. "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13).

     It is the Holy Spirit who does this--the third Person of the Godhead. He it is who, when the heart is opened wide to receive Him, comes in and reigns there, and mortifies the deeds of the body, day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment.

     I want to bring this to a point. Remember, dear friend, what we need is to come to decision and action. There are in Scripture two very different sorts of Christians. The Bible speaks in Romans, Corinthians and Galatians about yielding to the flesh; and that is the life of tens of thousands of believers. All their lack of joy in the Holy Spirit, and their lack of the liberty He gives, is just owing to the flesh. The Spirit is within them, but the flesh rules the life. To be led by the Spirit of God is what they need. Would God that I could make every child of His realize what it means that the everlasting God has given His dear Son, Christ Jesus, to watch over you every day, and that what you have to do is to trust; and that the work of the Holy Spirit is to enable you every moment to remember Jesus, and to trust Him! The Spirit has come to keep the link with Him unbroken every moment. Praise God for the Holy Spirit! We are so accustomed to think of the Holy Spirit as a luxury, for special times, or for special ministers and men. But the Holy Spirit is necessary for every believer, every moment of the day. Praise God you have Him, and that He gives you the full experience of the deliverance in Christ, as He makes you free from the power of sin.

     Who longs to have the power and the liberty of the Holy Spirit? Oh, brother, bow before God in one final cry of despair:

     "O God, must I go on sinning this way forever? Who shall deliver me, O wretched man that I am! from the body of this death?"

     Are you ready to sink before God in that cry and seek the power of Jesus to dwell and work in you? Are you ready to say: "I thank God through Jesus Christ"?

     What good does it do that we go to church or attend conventions, that we study our Bibles and pray, unless our lives are filled with the Holy Spirit? That is what God wants; and nothing else will enable us to live a life of power and peace. You know that when a minister or parent is using the catechism, when a question is asked an answer is expected. Alas! how many Christians are content with the question put here: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" but never give the answer. Instead of answering, they are silent. Instead of saying: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord," they are forever repeating the question without the answer. If you want the path to the full deliverance of Christ, and the liberty of the Spirit, the glorious liberty of the children of God, take it through the seventh chapter of Romans; and then say: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Be not content to remain ever groaning, but say: "I, a wretched man, thank God, through Jesus Christ. Even though I do not see it all, I am going to praise God."

     There is deliverance, there is the liberty of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is "joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 15:10-11
     by D.H. Stern

10     Discipline is severe for one who leaves the way,
and whoever can’t stand correction will die.

11     Sh’ol and Abaddon lie open to ADONAI;
so how much more people’s hearts!

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘And some hear him?’


     ‘In your own books, Sir,’ said I, ‘you were a Universalist. You talked as if all men would be saved. And St. Paul too.’

     ‘Ye can know nothing of the end of all things, or nothing expressible in those terms. It may be, as the Lord said to the Lady Julian, that all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. But it’s ill talking of such questions.’

     ‘Because they are too terrible, Sir?’

     ‘No. Because all answers deceive. If ye put the question from within Time and are asking about possibilities, the answer is certain. The choice of ways is before you. Neither is closed. Any man may choose eternal death. Those who choose it will have it. But if ye are trying to leap on into eternity, if ye are trying to see the final state of all things as it will be (for so ye must speak) when there are no more possibilities left but only the Real, then ye ask what cannot be answered to mortal ears. Time is the very lens through which ye see—small and clear, as men see through the wrong end of a telescope—something that would otherwise be too big for ye to see at all. That thing is Freedom: the gift whereby ye most resemble your Maker and are yourselves parts of eternal reality. But ye can see it only through the lens of Time, in a little clear picture, through the inverted telescope. It is a picture of moments following one another and yourself in each moment making some choice that might have been otherwise. Neither the temporal succession nor the phantom of what ye might have chosen and didn’t is itself Freedom. They are a lens. The picture is a symbol: but it’s truer than any philosophical theorem (or, perhaps, than any mystic’s vision) that claims to go behind it. For every attempt to see the shape of eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom. Witness the doctrine of Predestination which shows (truly enough) that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real; but at the price of removing Freedom which is the deeper truth of the two. And wouldn’t Universalism do the same? Ye cannot know eternal reality by a definition. Time itself, and all acts and events that fill Time, are the definition, and it must be lived. The Lord said we were gods. How long could ye bear to look (without Time’s lens) on the greatness of your own soul and the eternal reality of her choice?’

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Now don’t hurt the Lord!

     Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? --- John 14:9.

     Our Lord must be repeatedly astounded at us — astounded at how un-simple we are. It is opinions of our own which make us stupid; when we are simple we are never stupid, we discern all the time. Philip expected the revelation of a tremendous mystery, but not in the One Whom he knew. The mystery of God is not in what is going to be, it is now; we look for it presently, in some cataclysmic event. We have no reluctance in obeying Jesus, but it is probable that we are hurting Him by the questions we ask. “Lord, show us the Father.” His answer comes straight back—‘There He is, always here or nowhere.’ We look for God to manifest Himself to His children: God only manifests Himself in His children. Other people see the manifestation, the child of God does not. We want to be conscious of God; we cannot be conscious of our consciousness and remain sane. If we are asking God to give us experiences, or if conscious experience is in the road, we hurt the Lord. The very questions we ask hurt Jesus because they are not the questions of a child.

     “Let not your heart be troubled” —then am I hurting Jesus by allowing my heart to be troubled? If I believe the character of Jesus, am I living up to my belief? Am I allowing anything to perturb my heart, any morbid questions to come in? I have to get to the implicit relationship that takes everything as it comes from Him. God never guides presently, but always now. Realize that the Lord is here now, and the emancipation is immediate.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

The Old Language
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           The Old Language

England, what have you done to make the speech
My fathers used a stranger to my lips,
An offence to the ear, a shackle on the tongue
That would fit new thoughts to an abiding tune?
Answer me now. The workshop where they
Stands idle, and thick dust covers their tools.
The blue metal of streams, the copper and gold
Seams in the wood are all unquarried; the leaves'
Intricate filigree falls, and who shall renew
Its brisk pattern? When spring wakens the hearts
Of the young children to sing, what song shall be

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     Foundation for Conquest: Joshua 1–8

     With the death of Moses and the appointment of Joshua to lead God's people on to victory, the adventure recorded in the Book of Joshua begins. And the Amarna letters? They tell us that God had quietly been at work, preparing the stage for Israel's Conquest.

     During much of the 400 years that Israel was in Egypt, Palestine served as a land bridge between Egypt and a succession of world powers to the north. It had also been their battleground. The people of Israel, who multiplied from 70 people to more than 2 million in Egypt, could never have increased to such numbers if God had left them in the Promised Land. Then, just at the time when Israel was ready to enter that land, Egypt's power waned in Palestine. In the power vacuum which existed—into a land divided into petty kingdoms—God's people moved, ready to overcome peoples more numerous than themselves, but divided.

     Diplomatic success and failure serves only to further the outworking of God's plan.

     It's important to keep this point in mind. So often when we read the Bible we think of the people and events as distant, or somehow unreal. But the Egyptian diplomat in one of the luxuriously decorated brick buildings of Akhetaton who puzzled over the complex world situation is not so different from the State Department undersecretary in modern Washington. Their problems would be much the same. At night each would return to a suburban home, passing crowded and disorganized clusters of apartment houses. Cocktail parties and political maneuvering (if not between Republicans and Democrats, then between the Amon priesthood party and the party of Pharaoh), shaped the lifestyle then as now.

     And even as emerging nations struggle today to establish their existence, so in Palestine the people of Israel were about to emerge as a nation, and to challenge a people long established there.

     How real it all is! Just as real, just as living, as today's current events.

     But what took place then has a unique timelessness. Events occurring in Washington today affect us and our future. But so do the events of Scripture. In the people and events described in God's Word, we discover timeless truths about ourselves and our relationships with God. The Bible's word of history becomes, by the activity of the Holy Spirit, God's voice guiding us today. As we listen, learn, and respond to One who speaks to us through the heritage of our sacred past, you and I can see our own years of darkness fade away, and welcome the days of glory that God intends to unfold for us.

     Opening God's Word to Joshua is both to revisit a living history, and to open up our own lives to our loving God.

     The Book of Joshua opens with the phrase, "After the death of Moses." There is a great transition here. It's the kind of transition that takes place when a young person leaves the family, and starts off on his or her own. Or when a marriage takes place, and the young couple leave their fathers and mothers to establish a new home.

     For some 40 years—and for four entire books of the Old Testament—the man Moses had been the dominant figure in Israel. But now this people must strike out and face the challenge of the future without him.

     It's helpful to look at these early chapters of Joshua and discover the resources that God provides for His people.

     An equipped leader (Josh. 1). God does not want a leaderless people. But He needs leaders who are uniquely equipped.

     Joshua's previous experience had prepared him for leadership. He had led the Israelite defense against an attack by the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8–16), indicating previous battlefield experience. It's likely he had served in the Egyptian army: foreigners were often enlisted in the military services. As 1 of the 12 spies, Joshua had learned firsthand the topography of Palestine. At that time his trust in God had led him to advise immediate attack when all the other spies but Caleb urged the people to disobey. Later, at God's direction, Joshua was invested with some of Moses' authority (Numbers 27:20).

     Usually the road to significant leadership is a long one, with many choices along the way. What you and I do with our less significant opportunities determines the part we'll play later!

     But leadership demands more than character and experience. This first chapter of the book bearing Joshua's name makes it clear that the leader's relationship with God is crucial. Joshua had basic spiritual resources that are ours as well. How Joshua used the divine resources would make the difference between victory and defeat. What were his resources?

     (1) Joshua had a promise in God's stated purpose. "I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised David" (Josh. 1:3). God's announced purpose was to give Israel the Promised Land.

     (2) Joshua had the promise of God's presence. "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you" (Joshua 1:5). God had committed Himself to be with His servant and to take on Himself the burden of bringing success.

     (3) Joshua had the promise of God's faithfulness. "You will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them" (Joshua 1:6). God had committed Himself to a cause, and He would not let His promise fail.

     In view of these commitments made by God, there was only one thing required of Joshua: "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey the Law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go" (Joshua 1:7). Neither discouragement nor fear were to influence Joshua to hesitate or to disobey. If Joshua would live in close relationship to the Lord, being responsive and obedient to Him, victory was assured. The leader must be a person who follows. A person strong enough and courageous enough to follow God.

The Teacher's Commentary

Joshua Chapter 5
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 1–9.—The great renewal of the covenant. Matthew Henry very felicitously quotes here and combines the two passages (Cant. 8:5 and 6:10), “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved, who looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” Terrible as an army in the eyes of her enemies (ver. 1); fair as the moon, clear as the sun, when the reproach of Egypt is rolled away (ver. 9).

     I. ISRAEL IS A TYPE OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN HER WARFARE AGAINST SIN. When God’s Church resolutely binds herself to the conflict with the powers of evil, their heart must needs melt, neither is there spirit in them any more. “Then Satan doth fear, his citadels fall,” says the hymn. For the Church comes in the strength of her Lord. The “strong man armed” must have his “armour, wherein he trusted,” taken from him, and the spoils of human souls which he has so industriously acquired must be divided, because “the stronger than he” has come upon him and bound him. Satan has no weapons for a hand-to-hand conflict with the Body of Christ. His weapons are to corrupt, to deceive, to persuade to a spirit of compromise with the world. So it has ever been that he has triumphed by corrupting the Church of God. Whenever God’s disciples have gone forth to battle boldly and unflinchingly against evil, they have been victorious. They first humbled impurity and licentiousness, as well as unbelief. If they did not destroy these enemies of the soul, they at least compelled them to hide their heads, to shrink into corners, to admit unwillingly the superiority of purity and faith by ceasing to parade sins of this kind openly before the world. Next came the conflict with brute violence, which was kept in awe by the sacred character of the ministers of religion. Shameless and cynical effrontery in vice among those very ministers of religion, when the Church became corrupt, was next put down, even in spite of the weapons of force and temporal authority. So in later days a good cause has ever been victorious against the most overwhelming odds, when it has been prosecuted with perseverance and faith. Witness the abolition of slavery, first here, and next in America, so that even the Portuguese themselves, once the most hardened offenders in this respect, are now offering their co-operation with the English to put it down. So, again, the voice of God’s faithful ones has spoken, and men dare not now stand up to take away one another’s lives in this Christian land for a few hasty words, spoken without reflection. This may embolden us, when we take up our weapons of prayer and holy exhortation to denounce the sins that yet remain among us—the reproach of intemperance, the scandalous opium traffic by which the revenue of India is largely supported, our commercial dishonesty, and all the other reproaches of our age. Against these must the Church of Christ gird on her armour, and never cease to wage a conflict, until the promised day shall come, when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” But one caution must be borne in mind. When we buckle on our armour afresh to contend against our enemies, we must first cross our Jordan. We must solemnly, that is, sever ourselves from the wayward and wandering past. Like Daniel (chap. 9), we must “speak, and pray, and confess our sins, and the sin of our people.” And then we must solemnly renew our covenant, our broken covenant, with God. Then may we advance without fear to the attack, and if Jesus be our leader, the battle may be long, but we cannot fail to have victory in the end.

     II. ISRAEL IS A TYPE OF THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL IN THE SAME WARFARE. Just as in the case of the Church, so in the case of the individual, must there be the moment of conversion, the settled and deliberate resolve to break with the past, and the passage, under the guidance of the ark of the covenant, the law of God, and the conscience, the sign of His presence in the heart, into the condition of fellowship with God. Then must come the solemn renewal of the covenant, the circumcision of the heart, the mortifying of the flesh, the cutting off even those innocent enjoyments which have been found dangerous in times past, through the weakness of the flesh. Then the feast by faith upon the flesh and blood of the true Paschal Lamb, the making memorial of our deliverance through Him from a cruel bondage, and then we must prepare for the assault. Nor need we fear defeat. Satan trembles when he sees us determined. His heart melts within him as he sees us advancing under the leadership of Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, and as long as we are resolute in the strife, the victory is secure. Yet it is not always won in the same manner. Some sins fall like Jericho, by the might of prayer. Some, like Ai, when evil has obtained a lodgment within, are only overcome after a, shameful humiliation, repaired by a firm determination to put away the secret defilement. Others, like the rest of the cities which Joshua destroyed, will only succumb after a determined and persevering resistance. But the result is the same in the end. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper,” if thou art only steadfast in following wherever Jesus leads. “Terrible as an army is she who cometh up out of the wilderness, leaning on the arm of her beloved.”

     III. WORLDLY WISDOM MUST BE LAID ASIDE WHEN WE HAVE TO BATTLE WITH SIN. Nothing could be more foolish, humanly speaking, than for Joshua to have ordered a general circumcision of the children of Israel at this time. Simeon and Levi (
Gen. 34:25) had taken advantages of this moment to overcome the Shechemites. And, leaving God out of the question, if the inhabitants of the land had descended upon the Israelites at the moment of their helplessness, they would have been sure of an easy victory. But these Israelites were under the protection of God. He could have worked another miracle to protect them from their enemies, as easily as He had brought them over Jordan. But He worked no miracle this time. He inspired terror into the minds of the inhabitants of Canaan, so that they dare not attack them. They were quite safe under His protection, as long as they obeyed His voice. This should teach us—

     1. Not to slight the means of grace. “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” And yet it is equally true that he who refused to be circumcised as God had commanded him, “that soul” was to be “cut off from his people.” So in these days, those who “forsake the assembling of themselves together,” who make light of Christian baptism, who neglect the Lord’s Supper, who treat with disdain the ordinances set up by lawful authority in the Church, who kick at authority and despise reproof, shall not be unpunished.

     2. Not to combat sin with worldly weapons. Such maxims as “honesty is the best policy,” and other similar ones which put the practice of virtue upon grounds of success in this life and worldly convenience, will always fail us at the critical moment. Let the temptation be only strong enough; let it only be clearly more to our advantage at the moment when we are assailed to yield than to resist, and the “cunning bosom sin” (George Herbert) will “blow away” all that “array” of “fences” which worldly wisdom has set around our actions. Nothing but the rooted conviction. “Thou God seest me;” nothing but the question, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” will be powerful enough to defeat the assaults of sin in cases of secret overwhelming temptation. If that is not motive strong enough, nothing will be. Had the Israelites omitted to fence themselves with the protection of God’s covenant, their prudence would not have availed them against the overwhelming numbers of their adversaries. But confidence that they were in the keeping of a higher power led them to consecrate themselves first to God, and then to go out to battle against His enemies and theirs.

     3. Not to neglect our duty for fear of consequences. No one could have been under a greater temptation to do this than Joshua. By his obedience he was placing himself and his people in a position of the most imminent peril. Yet we hear of no hesitation. He does what he ought to do as a matter of course. Faith is weaker with the great mass of professing Christians than it was with Joshua. Both in public and private affairs men continually plead the urgency of the case as an excuse for a slight dereliction of duty. This is the case (a) in affairs of State. And this is especially the case when the duty is what is (though erroneously) called a religious duty. Thus in India, some years ago, our missionaries were discouraged in their efforts, because it was supposed that British authority would be endangered by their successes. The opium traffic, above referred to, is defended on the ground of the evils to India which would result from a financial deficit. We sometimes hear “British interests” put above duty. Yet without attempting to decide whether this has been so in any given case, the broad general principle must be laid down that no fear of consequences to our vast and most valuable power ought to induce us, as a nation, to take one single step that cannot be defended on the grounds of abstract justice. We may be certain that in the long run the most conscientious policy will be the most advantageous. Yet even if not, “let justice be done, though the heavens should fall.” We find the same tendency at work (b) in the affairs of the Church. Those who are in high office in the Church often display over-timidity from the sense of the grave responsibility that action throws upon them. Nor should such a sense of responsibility be absent. Yet where duty is clear there is no responsibility at all. Consequences in such a case should not be weighed. They may sometimes—though not so often as is supposed—serve to help in the decision where duty lies. But they cannot be pleaded as an excuse for neglecting duty. Lastly (c), we come to the case of private persons, and we find the same tendency at work. The tradesman or professional man adopts the commercial morality of his fellows, whether it be right or wrong, and says that he shall be ruined if he does not. Let him take example by Joshua.

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Ketubbot 12b


     All of us, at one time or another, have been forced to do things that we do not want to do. The government obligates us to pay taxes. While we may argue about the specific amount and type of taxes, we somehow know that, on the whole, taxes are a positive since they allow the government to provide services for us. We feel forced—until we enjoy a park, police protection, public library, or interstate highway system. Then, we feel as if we want the services and are willing to pay for them, rather than feeling forced to do so.

     We are required, because of professional responsibilities and job expectations, to attend social functions that we would much rather say no to. Our feeling of obligation often ends when we realize that our jobs provide us with the lifestyle that we have grown accustomed to. No obligations would mean no pleasures either.

     There are times when others—especially parents—are too pushy. Yet often, the push is just what is needed, even if the "I want to" is not heard for many years and is not expressed in so many words. The child who would rather play outside but instead is cajoled into taking music lessons may not jump up and shout "Thanks, Ma!" Yet, as that child grows to appreciate music and become an accomplished musician, the strains of "I want to!" can often be heard between the notes.

     A young adult is looking to her parents not only for love but also for structure to help make sense of her chaotic teen years. The parent who lovingly yet firmly imposes rules actually understands the child's genuine needs. The rebellious teenager who is forced to accept parental regulations may come to appreciate a parent's concern years later, when she has a family of her own.

     There are times when each of us has been pushed into a situation that makes us say: "Okay, I'll do it!" After the resentment dies down and the bitterness passes, we are able to look at the situation in its proper perspective. We then come to realize and appreciate that we were forced to do something that was for our own good.

     Text / It was stated: [One says:] "You have a maneh of mine," and the other says: "I do not know." Rav Yehudah and Rav Huna say: "He is obligated to pay," and Rav Naḥman and Rabbi Yoḥanan say: "He is exempt." Rav Huna and Rav Yehudah say: "He is obligated; in a case of 'sure' or 'maybe'—'sure' is better." Rav Naḥman and Rabbi Yoḥanan say: "He is exempt; the money stays in the possession of the one who has it."

     Context / Later Jewish law codifies which of these two views is followed: [One says:] "You have a maneh of mine that I lent you, or that I left for safekeeping with you", and the other says: "I do not know if you lent it to me, or left it with me for safekeeping"—he [the latter] swears an oath of inducement that he does not know of it, and he is exempt from having to pay. (Shulḥan Arukh, Ḥoshen Mishpat 75:9)

     One person (let's call him Reuven) says to another (named Shimon): "You owe me one maneh (an amount of money, probably equal to one hundred zuz or dinars)." Shimon replies that he does not remember if he borrowed such a sum from Reuven. What is the law in this situation? Two possible answers are offered, based on very different legal principles. Rav Yehudah and Rav Huna hold that in a case where Reuven is sure of the facts and Shimon is not certain, the law supports Reuven, and Shimon must repay the money: In a case of "sure" or "maybe," "sure" is better.

     Rav Naḥman and Rabbi Yoḥanan take the opposite viewpoint which is similar to our expression "Possession is nine-tenths of the law." In other words, the person who has it keeps it unless convincing evidence can be brought to show why the money should be taken away and given to someone else.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     The Oniads in Egypt

     Another Jewish family narrative surfaces during the latter half of the second century. Excluded from office by the upheavals of the Seleucid-backed high priesthood, Onias IV, son of the murdered high priest of the same name, fled to Egypt. There he obtained a land grant and permission from the reigning monarchs (Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II) to erect a temple modeled on that of Jerusalem in the eastern Nile Delta. Conflicting sources obscure the precise timing and intent of this undertaking, but it is evident that (as so often with Jewish settlement in the Hellenistic age) the Oniad district and its temple functioned as a military colony, providing internal security for Lower Egypt, as well as supplying manpower for the Ptolemaic army when called upon.

     Although Jewish inhabitants of the region embroiled themselves in Egyptian conflicts as late as Julius Caesar’s Alexandrine War (48 B.C.E.), testimony for the career of the Oniad family itself is confined to the period of the dynastic intrigues of Cleopatra II and Cleopatra III (145–102 B.C.E.). In his refutation of Apion’s diatribe against the Jews of Alexandria, Josephus tells of two Jewish generals, Onias and Dositheos, who supported Cleopatra II’s claim to the throne against her brother, Physcon, and his Alexandrian partisans, following the death of her husband in 145 (Ag. Ap. 2.49–56). Although Josephus does not explicitly connect this Onias with the expatriate Jerusalemite, the probability of their identification seems quite strong. (The identity of Dositheos and his relationship to Onias cannot be determined with certainty.) Two sons of Onias IV—Chelkias and Ananias—likewise emerge as generals during the reign of Cleopatra III (whose titulature and propaganda reveal a consistent effort to win over and maintain the allegiance of her mother’s traditional support base). In 103, Chelkias and Ananias led an Egyptian army into Palestine against the queen’s would-be usurper, her elder son Ptolemy Lathyrus. Chelkias fell in battle, but Ananias (if Josephus is to be believed) influenced Cleopatra’s decision to forge an alliance with the Judean king, Alexander Jannaeus (Ant. 13.324–55).

     After this episode, information on the Oniads dries up. But epigraphic evidence testifies to the continued vitality of the community Onias founded. More than seventy Jewish funerary inscriptions have been recovered from Tell el-Yahudiyya (ancient Leontopolis) dating as late as the early second century C.E. One epitaph explicitly names the “Land of Onias” as the patrimony of the deceased (JIGRE 38). Like the Maccabean narrative, the Oniad saga illustrates the capacity of Jews to operate within the framework of the Hellenistic monarchies. But whereas the Oniads were absorbed into the Ptolemaic hierarchy, the relationship of the Hasmoneans to the Seleucid state was to develop along quite a different path.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 21

     Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. --- Isaiah 50:10.

     Some of you have been called to pass through deep troubles—fiery troubles. ( A Quest For Souls ) You will fatally err if you go anywhere else but to God. There is your anchor. If you have an anchor, you do not keep it in the ship when you need to anchor the ship. You let it down. So our anchor is not in us at all. We are anchored to Christ. That anchor will hold. And if you do not fix firmly on God in the dark and trying day, you have serious cause to suspect whether you have ever really trusted him at all. Trust him in the dark day, because God’s grace and promises are designed for dark days, just as great ships are built to withstand the stoutest storm that ever drives the seas. Why should you trust God on the dark and cloudy day? Because such a faith will glorify God. With your submission to God’s will—patient, meek, and uncomplaining—if you will trust him like that, you will be a blessed witness for God.

     Why are you to trust him on the dark and cloudy day? Because it will not always stay dark and cloudy, thank God! Sure are his promises that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (
Ps. 30:5). It will not stay dark. There comes a sweet, fair morning, tinted and glinted with all the favor of God, and you are to look forward to that morning, cling to him, and go your way, knowing that all will be well.

     Take one step at a time, and then take another step, and then take another step, and he will bring you into the fair day, and you will sing with the poet:

  I would rather walk with Christ in the dark
  Than to walk alone in the light.
  I would rather walk with him by faith
  Than to walk by myself with sight.

     Stay yourself on him today, and from this day forward cleave ever to him with unhesitating trust, and then you may sing with the psalmist that “the LORD will fulfill his purpose for [us]” (
Ps. 138:8), because his mercy endures forever.
--- George W. Truett

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     God in the Alps  April 21

     God’s eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made” (Rom. 1:20). Many miss the majesty of God’s creation, but one boy on the Swiss-Italian border got the message.

     Anselm grew up on breathtaking St. Bernard. His mother frequently reminded him of the Creator, and Anselm imagined God living among the Alps. In his mid-teens Anselm, quarreling with his father, entered a French monastery where he expanded his knowledge of God through study of Scripture. His keen mind and mature faith led to repeated calls from England, and eventually Anselm crossed the channel to become archbishop of Canterbury.

     His life and teaching breathed of Christ. Belief in God, Anselm felt, was rational and logical, not a blind leap of mindless faith. The beauty of creation evidenced God’s existence; and furthermore, the very fact that our minds could imagine an infinite, loving God gave evidence that he existed. Anselm’s famous argument for God’s existence said that if God could exist in our minds, he could exist in reality.

     But Anselm’s deepest writings were on the atonement, which he defined as Christ’s blood being a “satisfaction” made to God by the Lord Jesus. Love of Christ’s atonement brought Anselm comfort when he found himself in the crossfire between the pope and English king. The redheaded King William Rufus (Rufus the Red) was profane and violent. He reputedly arose a worse man every morning, and went to bed a worse man every night. He enjoyed seeing animals and men tortured, while Anselm would go out of his way to save a hare.

     Banished and recalled, exiled and returned, Anselm bore his trials with strength until April 21, 1109, when, surrounded by friends, he passed away at age 76 as morning was breaking. Friends lifted his dying body from the bed and placed it on ashes in the floor. Thus he met his Creator face to face, whom he had first recognized in the beauty of the Alps and in the pages of the Holy Bible.

  I look to the hills! Where will I find help?
  It will come from the LORD,
  Who created the heavens and the earth.
  The LORD is your protector,
  And he won’t go to sleep or let you stumble.
  The protector of Israel doesn’t doze or ever get drowsy.

  --- Psalm 121:1-4.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 21

     “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” --- Job 19:25.

     The marrow of Job’s comfort lies in that little word “My”—“My Redeemer,” and in the fact that the Redeemer lives. Oh! to get hold of a living Christ. We must get a property in him before we can enjoy him. What is gold in the mine to me? Men are beggars in Peru, and beg their bread in California. It is gold in my purse which will satisfy my necessities, by purchasing the bread I need. So a Redeemer who does not redeem me, an avenger who will never stand up for my blood, of what avail were such? Rest not content until by faith you can say “Yes, I cast myself upon my living Lord; and he is mine.” It may be you hold him with a feeble hand; you half think it presumption to say, “He lives as my Redeemer;” yet, remember if you have but faith as a grain of mustard seed, that little faith entitles you to say it. But there is also another word here, expressive of Job’s strong confidence, “I know.” To say, “I hope so, I trust so” is comfortable; and there are thousands in the fold of Jesus who hardly ever get much further. But to reach the essence of consolation you must say, “I know.” Ifs, buts, and perhapses, are sure murderers of peace and comfort. Doubts are dreary things in times of sorrow. Like wasps they sting the soul! If I have any suspicion that Christ is not mine, then there is vinegar mingled with the gall of death; but if I know that Jesus lives for me, then darkness is not dark: even the night is light about me. Surely if Job, in those ages before the coming and advent of Christ, could say, “I know,” we should not speak less positively. God forbid that our positiveness should be presumption. Let us see that our evidences are right, lest we build upon an ungrounded hope; and then let us not be satisfied with the mere foundation, for it is from the upper rooms that we get the widest prospect. A living Redeemer, truly mine, is joy unspeakable.

          Evening - April 21

     “Who is even at the right hand of God.” Romans 8:34.

     He who was once despised and rejected of men, now occupies the honourable position of a beloved and honoured Son. The right hand of God is the place of majesty and favour. Our Lord Jesus is his people’s representative. When he died for them they had rest; he rose again for them, they had liberty; when he sat down at his Father’s right hand, they had favour, and honour, and dignity. The raising and elevation of Christ is the elevation, the acceptance, and enshrinement, the glorifying of all his people, for he is their head and representative. This sitting at the right hand of God, then, is to be viewed as the acceptance of the person of the Surety, the reception of the Representative, and therefore, the acceptance of our souls. O saint, see in this thy sure freedom from condemnation. “Who is he that condemneth?” Who shall condemn the men who are in Jesus at the right hand of God?

     The right hand is the place of power. Christ at the right hand of God hath all power in heaven and in earth. Who shall fight against the people who have such power vested in their Captain? O my soul, what can destroy thee if Omnipotence be thy helper? If the aegis of the Almighty cover thee, what sword can smite thee? Rest thou secure. If Jesus is thine all-prevailing King, and hath trodden thine enemies beneath his feet; if sin, death, and hell are all vanquished by him, and thou art represented in him, by no possibility canst thou be destroyed.

   “Jesus’ tremendous name
   Puts all our foes to flight:
   Jesus, the meek, the angry Lamb,
   A Lion is in fight.

   “By all hell’s host withstood;
   We all hell’s host o’erthrow;
   And conquering them, through Jesus’ blood
   We still to conquer go.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 21


     John of Damascus, early 8th century
     English translation by John M. Neale, 1818–1866

     Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14 KJV)

     This hymn from the early eighth century is one of the oldest expressions found in most hymnals. Its origin is rooted in the liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church. It was written by one of the famous monks of that church, John of Damascus, c. 676–c. 780.

     The celebration of Easter has always been a spectacle of ecclesiastical pomp in the Greek Orthodox Church. Even today, as a vital part of the ceremony, the worshipers bury a cross under the high altar on Good Friday and dramatically resurrect it with shouts of “Christos egerthe” (“Christ is risen”) on Easter Sunday. With this announcement begins a time of joyous celebration. Torches are lit, bells and trumpets peel, and salvos of cannons fill the air. The following account describes such a scene:

     Everywhere men clasped each other’s hands, congratulated one another, and embraced with countenances beaming with delight, as though to each one separately some wonderful happiness had been proclaimed—and so in truth it was; and all the while rising above the mingling of many sounds, each one of which was a sound of gladness, the aged priests were distinctly heard chanting forth a glorious hymn of victory in tones so loud and clear, that they seemed to have regained the youth and strength to tell the world how “Christ is risen from the dead, having trampled death beneath His feet, and henceforth they that are in the tombs have everlasting life.”

     John M. Neale is generally regarded as one of the leading translators of ancient hymns. He was recognized as one of the most learned hymnologists of his day and had a knowledge of twenty languages.

     The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad—
     the Passover of gladness, the Passover of God!
     From death to life eternal, from this world to the sky,
     our Christ hath brought us over with hymns of victory!

     Our hearts be pure from evil, that we may see aright
     the Lord in rays eternal of resurrection light;
     and, list’ning to His accents, may hear, so calm and plain,
     His own “All hail!” and, hearing, may raise the victor strain.

     Now let the heav’ns be joyful, let earth her song begin,
     let the round world keep triumph and all that is therein;
     let all things seen and unseen their notes in gladness blend,
     for Christ the Lord hath risen, our joy that hath no end!

     For Today: Matthew 28:1–9; Acts 2:24; 13:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 15:54–58.

     Determine to make this Easter a spiritual highpoint celebration in your life and in the lives of your family members. Reflect on this portion of the hymn ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. I.—FIRST of all, I would just touch upon some of the heads of your PREFACE; in which, You somewhat disparage our cause and adorn your own. In the first place, I would notice your censuring in me, in all your former books, an obstinacy of assertion; and saying, in this book, — “that you are so far from delighting in assertions, that you would rather at once go over to the sentiments of the skeptics, if the inviolable authority of the Holy Scriptures, and the decrees of the church, would permit you: to which authorities You willingly submit yourself in all things, whether you follow what they prescribe, or follow it not.” — These are the principles that please you.

     I consider, (as in courtesy bound,) that these things are asserted by you from a benevolent mind, as being a lover of peace. But if any one else had asserted them, I should, perhaps, have attacked him in my accustomed manner. But, however, I must not even allow you, though so very good in your intentions, to err in this opinion. For not to delight in assertions, is not the character of the Christian mind: nay, he must delight in assertions, or he is not a Christian. But, (that we may not be mistaken in terms) by assertion, I mean a constant adhering, affirming, confessing, defending, and invincibly persevering. Nor do I believe the term signifies any thing else, either among the Latins, or as it is used by us at this day. And moreover, I speak concerning the asserting of those things, which are delivered to us from above in the Holy Scriptures. Were it not so, we should want neither Erasmus nor any other instructor to teach us, that, in things doubtful, useless, or unnecessary; assertions, contentions, and strivings, would be not only absurd, but impious: and Paul condemns such in more places than one. Nor do you, I believe, speak of these things, unless, as a ridiculous orator, you wish to take up one subject, and go on with another, as the Roman Emperor did with his Turbot; or, with the madness of a wicked writer, you wish to contend, that the article concerning “Free-will” is doubtful, or not necessary.

     Be skeptics and academics far from us Christians; but be there with us assertors twofold more determined than the stoics themselves. How often does the apostle Paul require that assurance of faith; that is, that most certain, and most firm assertion of Conscience, calling it (Rom. x. 10), confession, “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation?” And Christ also saith, “Whosoever confesseth Me before men, him will I confess before My Father.” (Matt. x. 32.) Peter commands us to “give a reason of the hope” that is in us. (1 Pet. iii. 15.) But why should I dwell upon this; nothing is more known and more general among Christians than assertions. Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity. Nay, the Holy Spirit is given unto them from heaven, that He may glorify Christ, and confess Him even unto death; unless this be not to assert — to die for confession and assertion. In a word, the Spirit so asserts, that He comes upon the whole world and reproves them of sin (John xvi. 8) thus, as it were, provoking to battle. And Paul enjoins Timothy to reprove, and to be instant out of season. (2 Tim. iv. 2.) But how ludicrous to me would be that reprover, who should neither really believe that himself, of which he reproved, nor constantly assert it! — Why I would send him to Anticyra, to be cured.

     But I am the greatest fool, who thus lose words and time upon that, which is clearer than the sun. What Christian would bear that assertions should be contemned? This would be at once to deny all piety and religion together; or to assert, that religion, piety, and every doctrine, is nothing at all. Why therefore do you too say, that you do not delight in assertions, and that you prefer such a mind to any other?

     But you would have it understood that you have said nothing here concerning confessing Christ, and His doctrines. — I receive the admonition. And, in courtesy to you, I give up my right and custom, and refrain from judging of your heart, reserving that for another time, or for others. In the mean time, I admonish you to correct your tongue, and your pen, and to refrain henceforth from using such expressions. For, how upright and honest soever your heart may be, your words, which are the index of the heart, are not so. For, if you think the matter of “Free-will” is not necessary to be known, nor at all concerned with Christ, you speak honestly, but think wickedly: but, if you think it is necessary, you speak wickedly, and think rightly. And if so, then there is no room for you to complain and exaggerate so much concerning useless assertions and contentions: for what have they to do with the nature of the cause?

The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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